Mandelblit to Decide on Netanyahu Indictment Before Elections

YERUSHALAYIM -
Netanyahu indictment
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90, File)

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has decided to announce his decision regarding the possible indictment of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu before the April elections, according to Channel 2 news on Tuesday evening.

Mandelblit reportedly convened a special meeting last week of former attorney-generals and justices Yehudah Weinstein, Meir Shamgar, Aharon Barak, Moshe Lador, Elyakim Rubinstein, Dorit Beinisch, Edna Arbel, Gavriel Bach and Zvi Zamir to solicit their opinion on the timing of the announcement.

According to the report, the unanimous opinion was that the decision must be published prior to the election.

The attorney general reportedly has ruled out dismissing police recommendations in favor of closing the cases and is likely to summon the prime minister for a pre-indictment hearing.

Armed with the backing of a battery of the country’s most senior judicial and prosecutorial figures, Mandelblit concluded that “it was an obligation to decide” pre-election so that the voters would have all of the information possible when they went to voting booths.

Moving forward on an indictment of a sitting prime minister in the days leading up to elections is unprecedented.

The news comes just a day after Netanyahu strongly asserted in a press conference in Brazil that Mandelblit could not do so, because the prime minister is entitled to a hearing before an indictment is filed, and that was not viable while elections intervened.

In response, the prime minister’s legal defense team issued a statement saying that such a decision would be a “blow to the democratic process.”

“We believe there will not be an [indictment subject to a hearing] because nothing [untoward] has happened,” Netanyahu’s lawyers say in a statement sent to journalists.

“It is undemocratic to start a hearing before the elections when it cannot be concluded until after the elections. It is inconceivable that the public will hear only one side and not the other,” they argue, pointing out that many cases are closed following a hearing.

“Declaring a hearing during the election campaign without allowing the other side to respond would therefore be a distortion of the voter’s will and a severe blow to the democratic process.”